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DH ‘carefully considering’ waiving £370m COVID-19 advance funding

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) is “carefully considering” waiving community pharmacy’s obligation to pay back £370 million in advance COVID-19 funding.

In March, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) announced it had secured £300m in advanced funding in “recognition of the significant cashflow pressures facing the sector at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The DH later agreed to pay pharmacies in England an additional £50m in May, followed by an extra £20m in June.

At the time, the PSNC said the payment was not new money and would need to be paid back in the future.

However, a DH spokesperson said yesterday (November 12) that the negotiator has now made the case “that the £370m advanced [payment] shouldn’t be reclaimed from community pharmacy”.

“Those representations are being carefully considered by the department,” the spokesperson said at an NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) webinar last night.

“We acted very quickly at the start of the pandemic to put extra advanced funding in to address the cashflow difficulties that we knew community pharmacy was facing,” they added.

PSNC considering funding offer

Since April, the government has funded new services delivered at pharmacy level, including the pandemic delivery service, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The DH said it has “put a proposal to the PSNC” regarding the other costs community pharmacy has incurred due to COVID-19, such as staff cover.

“It’s under active discussions,” the DH spokesperson said.

A recent report by accountancy firm Ernst & Young warned that under the current funding model, the provision of services may be financially unviable for pharmacies in England.

In response to this report, pharmacy bodies have called for greater funding to avoid closures and financial ruin for pharmacy contractors.

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